Fit For an Autopsy-The Great Collapse

Fit For an Autopsy is one of the great rabble of deathcore bands populating our metal scene today.  By and large, I really have no use for deathcore, metalcore or any of the other -core sub-genres.  Maybe it’s because I was never a hardcore punk kid.  I understand the evolution of styles of punk and metal coming together (hell, we’d have no thrash metal without it), but this particular style has led to a great mass of generic sounding bands that I have a hard time distinguishing from one another.

In my opinion, Fit For an Autopsy is one of the deathcore bands that stands out amongst the unwashed mass of other bands in this sub-genre.  It seems like most deathcore bands are populated with some really talented players, but the songwriting always seems to take a backseat to the technical flash of the musicians.   Fit For an Autopsy, while still very technically proficient, has figured out that servicing the song is more important than showing off one’s technical chops 100% of the time.

I first stumbled across these guys on 2015’s Absolute Hope Absolute Hell album.  This latest platter isn’t quite as good as their precious effort, but it still manages to showcase some infectious moments.  I hear a lot of Gojira influence on a lot of the riffs and it sounds like a lot of the lyrical themes found on this record go hand in hand with the Gojira environmentally friendly stance.  There are plenty of seriously heavy breakdowns so all the hardcore kids in the pit can lose their collective minds during the live sets.  Albums like this one should further propel this band to the top of the deathcore heap in no time.

3 flip flops out of 5

Evocation-The Shadow Archetype

I going to be honest on this one.  I don’t really have a ton to say about this release because I don’t know a ton about this band.  This is my first exposure to Evocation and I know that they are from Sweden and they deal in death metal.  I know….totally out of the ordinary for a Swedish metal band.

However, I do have this to say:  This is an album that is worthy your time.  Rather than focusing on the technical precision that a lot of modern death metal bands are going for these days, Evocation pulls in some pretty awesome GROOOOVE to the mix.  This is honestly death metal that you could dance to.  I can’t say that anything on this album is overly groundbreaking, but what it delivers is really good and really catchy.  I can see myself coming back to this album quite often in the months ahead.

Go grab your favorite girl or boy, put this sucker on and cut a little rug to some glorious Swedish death metal.

4 flip flops out of 5

Pillorian-Obsidian Arc

It was sad news that came down the pike last year that U.S. black metal legend Agalloch was calling it quits.  Agalloch pioneered the black metal/folk metal/pagan metal hybrid that became a hallmark of the Northwest U.S.  I can’t see a photo of the Northwest rain forests draped in mist without having an Agalloch track come into my head.

So, when it was announced that head songwriter, singer and guitarist, John Haughm was moving forward with a new band called Pillorian, I was excited to hear the direction the new band would take.  I think I expected this new band to continue on in the footpath that Agalloch had laid before.

This debut album ended up being a bit of a surprise.  I guess it would make sense that Haughm would want to distance this new project a bit from his old band.  It seems that Haughm and his new band mates decided to go for a more straight ahead black metal approach to the material than we have grown accustomed to with Agalloch.  This is very dark and very bleak.  They have stripped bare the acoustic interludes and are musically dragging the listener deep into the pits of despair.  The only real throw back to the Agalloch blue print comes during the last two tracks. The Sentient Arcanum is an atmospheric instrumental lead in to the final track,  Dark Is the River of Man.  The way this album ends just elevates the rest of the album as a whole.  I really hope that going forward that Haughm and his new crew try to push their material more in this type of direction.  Overall, this is a good starting point for a new band.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Fen-Winter

Bleak unending wastelands.  A journey into Winter in six movements.  This is black metal done correctly.

This was my first exposure to the band Fen, a black metal outfit out of England and consider me fairly impressed.  This one will take some investment on your part should you decide to partake.  I believe the shortest song clocks in at around 9 minutes or so.  You should pack a sack lunch because you’re going to be here for some time.

Unlike a lot of their black metal brethren, Fen keeps things interesting by not just creating straight ahead paths with continuous tremolo picking and desolate screams.  Sure, there is plenty of that going on throughout the album, but the various segues into melodic and post-metal sections within the songs are what give this album some diversity and makes it stand above many of the other black metal releases coming out of late.  There are some downright beautiful passages contained within the bleakness of the whole.  I have to say that I really dig what these guys are laying down and hope to more out of them in the future.

4 flip flops out of 5

Katatonia and Caspian at Grizzly Hall, Austin, TX 3/25/2017

Goddamn, this was a really great show.  I don’t know if it is just that I hadn’t listened to much Katatonia of late, but I just found myself going, “Damn, I forgot about this one.  I love this song!” over and over and over throughout the set.  Katatonia’s latest output has been good, but my favorite period was the two album cycle of Viva Emptiness and The Great Cold Distance.  I have a feeling the band feels exactly the same way because their set from Saturday night pulled heavily from those two albums.

As an added bonus, instrumental opener Caspian was extremely impressive.  They employed a three guitar attack that created a full wave of post-rock soundscapes in collaboration with a really cool light show.  I’m not really sure why these guys managed to fly under my radar, but I will be exploring their catalog of albums in short measure.

Some samples of the evening’s set.

Evidence

Dead Letters

Ghost of the Sun

In the White

Leaders

 

Blackfield-V

This one’s not really metal at all, but I’m a Steven Wilson fan.  So, you’re just going to have to roll with this one.

Blackfield is a side project that started earlier in the 2000s between Wilson and indie rock singer Aviv Geffen from Israel.  The collaboration ultimately ended up with a product that sounded very similar to Porcupine Tree’s more melodic moments with a very pop song orientation.  Basically, you’re getting a 3-4 minute pop structure with a prog influence rather than the grandiose meanderings normally found in the Porcupine Tree and Wilson’s solo work.

The first two Blackfield albums were two really solid outings.  However, the past two releases have seen Wilson’s input decrease and, in turn, the quality of the albums have suffered.  The latest album was supposed to be seen as a return of Wilson as a full time partner with Geffen in the writing and performing of the songs.  I had high hopes that they would be returning to the quality of the first two albums.

Alas, it was not to be.  Album opener “Family Man” is quite good and would have fit right in on the first Blackfield album.  However, the rest of the album just sort of meanders and doesn’t gel in the way the previous albums did.  I can’t think that any of the remainder of the songs having any sort of staying power in the months to come when I’m in the mood to listen to some progressive pop.  Especially when I can go back to those first two albums these guys put out.

2.5 flip flops out of 5

Havok-Conformicide

Angry!  We are very, very angry!

This is the basic gist of Havok’s new album.  You will get 10 screeds full of vitriol lambasting politicians, the media, religion, the government, uninformed people and virtually everything else under the sun.  Underlying the collection of rants is a exhortation to think for one’s self.  This is all positive.  All of the issues brought up are valid.  I think if this album came out when I was in my 20s these anthems would have gotten me all riled up into a frothy frenzy…which I believe is Havok’s intent.  Maybe it’s because I’m a jaded middle aged cynic, but the songs just don’t rile me up as much as I would have thought they would.  I’m pissed about the state of things, but some of the lyrical content, especially opener F P C (Fuck Political Correctness), just sort of falls flat for me.  There’s a couple of moments on the album where it kind of feels like I’m just scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing rants about sheeple.

That being said, this album rips musically.  Havok is another of the up and coming legion of bands that are leading a new wave of thrash metal.  The guitar licks are fierce to match the lyrical content and the rhythm section lays down some downright creative foundations for the raging proceedings.  Singer David Sanchez seems to have learned to channel a weird combo of Mustaine’s cynical sneer, Exodus’ Zetro Souza’s maniacal screech and Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda’s powerful command in his vocal style.  He comes across as the perfect conduit to convey the massive amount of frustration these guys are feeling.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Crystal Fairy-Crystal Fairy

Well, this was a jaunty romp that I didn’t see coming.  Side project of Buzz and Dale from The Melvins, Omar from The Mars Volta/At The Drive In and Teri of Le Butcherettes.  This album is way more metal than one would think it would be just looking at its members’ past efforts.  But, damn, this thing is a slamming, catchy ride from beginning to end.  Terry from Le Butcherettes puts her best riot grrrl foot forward on this thing.  She is snarly.  She is flirty.  She is a damn powerhouse on the vocals.  Buzz from The Melvins really digs deep into his metal warehouse and pulls out some really tasty riffs to push the proceedings forward.

If you are looking for a fun record to put on to bounce around the house on a Sunday afternoon in your undies, this album would fit the bill perfectly.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Power Trip-Nightmare Logic

This is the album I have been waiting for.  This is the album that our current state really deserves.  Angst driven thrash with some of the most precision delivered guitar riffs I have heard in a long time.  I seriously had a hard time not driving 80 mph in the car while listening to this one.  If you have any love of metal at all, drop everything and go buy this record.

I’m always critical of the city of Dallas because it is really just a plastic land filled with terrible plastic people.  But I need to give credit where credit is due:  they have produced some nice metal bands over the years.  Power Trip is one of these bands.  I first stumbled upon them during a SXSW fest in Austin a few years ago and was really impressed with their aggressive live show.  Their debut album, Manifest Decimation, was a solid release, but it didn’t entirely match the intensity of their live shows.

This new album, however, is the real deal and a serious statement to the metal world that this is a band to be reckoned with.  Like the first album, the vocals sound like they were recorded in a dungeon.  There is a ton of echo in the mix and it kind of adds to the raw nature of this band.  The guitars are way up front and they are just glorious.  All in all, this band sounds like mixture of Slayer, old Prong and old Metallica.

I seriously cannot recommend this one highly enough.  Go buy it now!

5 flip flops out of 5

Immolation-Atonement

Damn.  That is just a near perfect metal album cover.  And the better thing is that the album it presents is just as good as its packaging.  And thank you for going back to the old school logo.

Immolation is a New York band that has been at the death metal game for a very long time.  There are no gimmicks.  There are no compromises.  This is just very grim death metal presented by seasoned professionals.

I’ve always been a firm believer that a good death metal or thrash metal album, more so than other genres of music (maybe excepting jazz) needs a really solid drummer to lay an extremely solid foundation for the rest of the band.  Immolation gets this in spades with the work that drummer Steve Shalaty provides on this current album.  He just goes for grooves and time signatures that aren’t cut-and-paste.  There is a real creativity to the patterns that he brings to the proceedings and it just elevates the material.  This album would just not have reached the same level of badassedness had it not been for his performance.  And this is not to take away from the rest of the band.  These guys really have a knack at coming up with guitar riffs that drive their songs in really interesting directions.  These guys are next level death metal.

4 flip flops out of 5